Instant analysis: Cotton's 31 not enough to stop Hoyas

Instant analysis: Cotton's 31 not enough to stop Hoyas
February 10, 2014, 9:30 pm
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(Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports)

Recap: At times, it appeared Georgetown's three-game winning streak would end solely due to Providence guard Bryce Cotton's bevy of points. One loss wouldn't end the Hoyas NCAA Tournament hopes. However, missing the chance to pick up a win at home against a quality foe wouldn't help the team's resume while perhaps damaging their psyche.

Then the Hoyas backcourt starting making shots while finally figuring out how to slow Cotton or at least outlast him. Georgetown dominated on both ends over the final 10 minutes and pulled away for an 83-71 win against the Friars despite Cotton's 31 points.

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 22 points and Markel Starks had 14 for the Hoyas (15-9, 6-6), who have won four straight immediately after dropping five in a row. Georgetown committed only five turnovers, made 24 of 30 free throws and shot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half en route to avenging a loss at Providence last month.

Cotton scored 19 points inside the final seven minutes of the first half. Overall, he sank 8 of 14 shots including five 3-pointers and several high degree of difficulty baskets. For a long stretch during the middle of the game, the Big East's second-leading scorer outpointed Georgetown by himself.

However after his final 3-pointer with 13:03 remaining, Cotton went without a field goal until the final seconds. Providence (16-9, 6-6), losers of three straight and four of five, shot 33.3 percent after halftime.

Trailing 54-47 with 10:15 remaining, the Hoyas roared back with an 11-3 spurt. Starks hit a floater in the lane to give Georgetown the lead for good at 58-57 with 6:41 remaining. The overall run ballooned to 27-9 as two free throws by Reggie Cameron put the Hoyas up 73-63 with 1:35 remaining. 

Smith-Rivera sank 7 of 10 attempts from the field including his first two 3-pointers in five games. He also made 6 of 7 free throws, and had five rebounds, five assists with zero turnovers in 36 minutes.

Jabril Trawick scored 12 and Reggie Cameron had 11 for Georgetown.

Scary moment: Starks not only hit the shot that put Georgetown in front for good, but he hit the deck on the play, grabbing at his left knee. The crowd went to pin drop-level quiet as he remained down for a breathless 30 seconds or so. Starks eventually walked off, sat on the bench where he put a sleeve on his left knee and returned with 5:25 remaining. Following the game Georgetown coach John Thompson III said his senior guard had banged his knee, but did not suffer an injury.

Stats: Led by Trawick, the Hoyas had a 20-4 bench scoring advantage. Georgetown also held a 16-6 points-off-turnovers advantage.

Cotton balling: Georgetown seemingly took control with a 12-1 run midway through the first half as Smith-Rivera's jumper made it 27-15 with 7:00 remaining. That turned out to be the Hoyas final basket of the half and the prelude to the Bryce Cotton show. The 6-foot-1 senior made his final five shots including four 3-pointers. He was also fouled taking a shot from beyond the arc and made all three attempts.

Cotton, who entered averaging 20.8 points, played all 40 minutes against the Hoyas. Talk about been there, done that scenario. Starting with the first meeting against Georgetown on Jan. 8, Cotton has played every single minute in 10 straight games including a double-overtime affair. Perhaps all those minutes factored into his basket-less stretch, though his teammates failed to convert when the senior fed the for open looks.

Big picture: The victory was Georgetown's over a Big East team with a winning record in conference play. The Hoyas are now tied with Providence for fourth place in the Big East. Neither of those points will send the NCAA Tournament selection committee into a tizzy. Yet a loss to the Friars could easily have been another nail in the Hoyas coffin. Not a final one, especially with upcoming games against Xavier, Creighton and at Villanova, but one for sure. Instead the streaking Hoyas are now firmly in the tournament mix. They also remain a loss or two from ending happy fun time. For now, happy fun time it is.

Odds and ends: Smith-Rivera made his first 3-point attempt early in the first half, snapping a streak of 17 consecutive misses from beyond the arc. ...Mikael Hopkins finished with eight points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Nate Lubick had eight points, six rebounds and drew three charges. ...Kadeem Batts scored 14 points and Tyler Harris had 13 for the Friars, who last swept the Hoyas during the 1992-93 season.

On deck: The Hoyas play two straight on the road, starting with St. John's at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night (7 p.m., FS1)